AK: EDF conscript shortfall not result of vaccine skepticism

EDF conscripts (photo is illustrative).
EDF conscripts (photo is illustrative). Source: ERR

October's conscript intake stood at 900, somewhat lower than the expected 1,200, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) reported Tuesday night.

The Defense Resources Agency (KRA) says that the 300-odd discrepancy in conscripts is not the result of anti-vaccination sentiments, who, AK reported, number around 20.

This was also the case even with those who leave the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) after joining or being drafted – the causes of which are more complex than a single-issue factor.

Commander of the Ämari-based staff and communications battalion (staabi- ja sidepataljon) Jevgeni Kuznetsov said that: "In fact, people leave of their own accord, precisely because they are not following any other order. It is not a question of vaccination, but other non-compliance issues. I personally know two [such people]."

AK reported that the battalion took in 74 conscripts in this latest round, all of whom had been vaccinated.

One conscript, Erik Hermaküla, said: "I got vaccinated myself as I had to go on a trip. The vaccine passport has made life easier here too, because I can get into theaters and cafes."

Another, Karel Kuus, said that he took the vaccination solely because it was an EDF prerequisite.

He said: "I got vaccinated simply so I could come here. There was no other choice available. However, while I have nothing against [vaccination], it could be a little more voluntary."

While the EDF takes on conscripts on 8-month or 11-month terms, depending on which area of the armed forces a conscript is joining, they serve alongside volunteers – who make up a high proportion (60 percent) of the Ämari battalion's composition.

The reason for the shortfall in October's draft was not reported, though in September, EDF commander Lt. Gen. Martin Herem said that those who did not respond to call-up would be removed from the list, but would be contacted at the next draft.

Also last month, the KRA had forecast only a small number of anti-vaxxers in an among October's draft, and, while it had previously not held data on the topic, said it expected that figure to dwindle.

While they put the estimated figure at 100, as noted around 20 people did not join up specifically because of their vaccine sentiments, while those who did not respond to a letter on the issue.

An AK report in September (link in Estonian) found 10 individuals who said they would not be drafted, due to the vaccination requirement, with reasons including the perception that the EDF already had sufficient anti-coronavirus measures in place and that the EDF comprises fit and healthy young people, as well as purported unknown risks in getting a vaccine, and concerns that worthwhile people otherwise keen to serve their country would be barred from doing so.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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